This series started in 2017 – here is my review of the first season. It told how a charming young woman, Miriam “Midge” Meisel, from a wealthy Jewish family, the Weissmen, suddenly began to make a career in the stand-up genre, with the help of a peculiar lady named Susie Meyerson (Alex Borstein), who manages the club ” Gaslight”, where novice stand-up artists take their first steps.
The series turned out to be absolutely wonderful, many called it the best series of 2017: it immediately won three Emmys, two Golden Globes and three Screen Actors Guild Awards. And immediately after the release of the first season, Amazon announced that the series had been renewed for at least three more seasons. In 2018, the second season was released, in 2019 – the third, then, for obvious reasons, work on the next season was suspended and resumed only at the end of January 2021, so the fourth season ended up being released only in 2022. Moreover, in February 2022, production of the fifth season began, but Amazon announced that the fifth season would be the final one.
To be honest, after watching the first season, I was afraid to watch the second season. The first season set the bar so high and was so good that it would be incredibly disappointing if the second season sank so badly.
Fortunately, this did not happen. True, the beginning with the departure of Rose’s mother to Paris, the arrival of her husband and their Parisian life looked very far-fetched, but when the Weissman family returned to America went on a two-month vacation to a resort in the Catskills, it became already good, and the season from that moment obviously taxied on the right rails.
The third season was pretty good too. Abe and Rose Weissman are forced to move out of their apartment and move into the house of Moishe and Shirley Maisel, the parents of Joel, Maisel’s ex-husband. Midge herself takes part in the tour of the popular singer Shy Baldwin, she is well paid there, and Midge, under a contract with Shy Baldwin, persuades her former father-in-law Moishe to sell her her former New York apartment owned by the Maisels. But the final episode ends with Maisel’s hopes shattered: Midge’s risqué jokes about Shai’s homosexuality cause his assistant, Reggie, to break the contract and kick Miriam and Susie off the tour.
What happens at the end of the fourth season? Midge still moves to her former apartment, although she is now completely unaffordable. Also, at her invitation, her parents move from the Meizels. Susie offers Miriam to get a job with some celebrity to act as an opening act, but Midge, following the example of her friend, rebel stand-up artist Lenny Bruce, refuses to follow any restrictions: now she will only say what she sees fit.
As a result, Miriam gets a job doing stand-up in a strip club, where she certainly will not be set any rules: say what you want, as long as the audience is happy.
I did not write reviews for the second and third seasons: these seasons more or less kept the level, but I watched them without enthusiasm, unlike the first season. However, in my opinion, they are quite worthy of viewing.
The fourth season took off right off the bat: the episode with the Ferris wheel, on which the Weissman and Maisel families rode in full force, was absolutely hilarious. Wow, my wife and I said to each other, if they started like that, then what will happen next?
Well, at least they did not disappoint further, we watched the fourth season with great pleasure, and we liked it even more than the previous two.
Miriam is still charming, uncompromising in her independence, great jokes, pathetically trying to cope with financial troubles and determined to break into stand-up no matter what. Rachel Brosnahan, as before, plays her perfectly, and the range of Miriam’s emotions is very wide here, and the degree of drama here is much higher than, for example, in the first season. The termination of the contract with Shai was a real shock for her, she was left without money, but she, gritting her teeth, still tries to do what she sees fit.
Brosnahan also subtly, dramatically and at the same time touchingly shows the relationship between Miriam and stand-up artist Lenny Bruce, who periodically appears from the very first episode of the first season.
I didn’t write about this in the first review, but Lenny Bruce is a stand-up comedian who really existed and was quite popular in the fifties and sixties with a rather scandalous reputation: he was never shy in expressions, he was repeatedly arrested for obscenity, he had a penchant for self-destruction , and as a result died of an overdose in 1966 at the age of only forty.
Several films were made about him: “Lenny” in 1974, where Lenny Bruce was played by Dustin Hoffman (six Oscar nominations), “Lenny Bruce: I Swear to Tell Only the Truth” in 1998 with Robert De Niro (one Oscar nomination) ), there is also a 2018 TV movie Lenny, but there is almost no data about it.
Here Lenny plays Luke Kerby, and he’s really good! There are many excellent supporting roles in this series, and this role is no exception. I watched “Lenny” in 1974, I saw several recordings of the real Lenny Bruce: Dustin Hoffman turned out to be a completely different type, but Kerby, in my opinion, he got into the role perfectly! Luke also does a great job of copying Lenny’s head and arm movements, the type is almost exactly the same, and Kerby is a really good actor, because he was able to perfectly portray this difficult, passionate and controversial person. And his on-screen relationship with Miriam is extremely interesting.
Of the other supporting characters, Tony Sheloub, as Abe Weissman, is still on fire: he is constantly reflective, sentimental, nervous and incredibly funny. Of the secondary characters in this series, my dad Abe comes right after Lenny Bruce.
Susie Meyerson, played by Alex Borstein, is still on top. She – not without the help of two bandits – has created her own acting agency, and, like Midge, is also struggling to break through. Suzy has not changed her habit of dressing in the style of “Korean prisoner of war for work”, is still sharp-tongued, and she is also excellent, no worse than in the first season.
The only thing – this line with Susie’s suffering about her friend who died in her apartment – it was quite far-fetched and forced. It is clear that the writers wanted to send Susie to Maisel’s house, but for this, it seems to me, they could have come up with something more authentic and realistic.
The older Meisel family is just as cool as ever. It is interesting that the Weissmen and the Maisels are completely different in type. The Weissmen are all very sophisticated, and the Maisels are much more rustic. But there that Moyshe, who is absolutely wonderful played by Kevin Pollack, that Shirley, played by Caroline Aaron, are excellent.
Jason Alexander from the unforgettable “Seinfeld” appeared here in a couple of episodes, and with him there was a great episode when in Midge’s house “the fighters remembered the days gone by”, and dad Abe lost his temper a little.
But the line of Joel Meisel, Midge’s ex-husband, I did not particularly like. Like the whole story with his club and his new Chinese girlfriend Mei. No, Michael Zegen, who plays Joel, is a good actor, but here the purely scripted line, in my opinion, turned out to be not particularly interesting, and it was not particularly clear to me why the writers – Amy Sherman-Palladino and her husband Daniel – continue this line at all to pull. In previous seasons with Joel, everything was somehow more interesting.
Well, one cannot but mention the absolutely wonderful Jane Lynch, who plays here practically the only really popular female stand-up artist Sophie Lennon in those years. In the third season Sophie suffered a failure on Broadway with her attempt to become a serious dramatic actress, this season she appears several times, where she tries to restart her career, and all the episodes with her are just great, especially the TV interviews. The screenplay is well written and the acting is excellent.
I also note that the traditional wealth of costumes and scenery for this series has not gone away, and many episodes of the fourth season look like real Broadway musicals!
By the way, the ratings of both the third and fourth seasons of the series sank noticeably: the fourth season has an audience rating of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, and critics have 65/100 on Metacritic, which indicates a noticeable disappointment.
I’m not disappointed at all, I clearly liked the fourth season. Yes, there are some not particularly successful scenario decisions, there are certain self-repetitions, but, in general, I think the series has managed to maintain its level, which can only be welcomed. Looking forward to the fifth season, I wonder how they will finish it.
PS An interesting moment. The screenwriter of this series (she is also a showrunner and director) Amy Sherman-Palladino, when creating the image of Midge, was also inspired by the famous comedian and TV presenter Joan Rivers. She also inspired the creators of the series “Tricks” for the image of the sixty-nine-year-old stand-up girl Deborah Vance.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Season 4 review
Director: Amy Sherman-Palladino Cast: Rachel Brosnahan, Kevin Pollack, Tony Shelub, Alex Borstein, Caroline Aaron, Michael Zegen, Marin Hinkle, Bailey De Young, Luke Kerby, Sophie Lennon, Stephanie Xu, Jason Alexander
Series, USA, 2022, 57 min.